HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Voters in Huntsville City Council District 5 will cast their ballots Tuesday in the runoff election between incumbent Will Culver and his opponent, John Meredith.
Culver won 49.6 percent of the vote in the Aug. 26 municipal election, falling just short of the 50.1 percent total needed to avoid a runoff.
Culver, a three-term councilman, says his experience in office and years of public service make him the right choice.
“It’s because of the experience I bring to city government,” he said. “We’re talking about not just my 12 years on the city council, but you’ve got to go back to my years of public service, the 10 years as a police officer, the 17 subsequent years as chief magistrate-chief probation, my position as criminal justice director at Calhoun, adjunct professor at A&M, I am this community, I wasn’t in Washington, D.C., lobbying for the Republican party for 20 years. I was in Huntsville, Alabama, I am Huntsville, Alabama.”
John Meredith, who challenged Culver in 2016 after seeing he was running unopposed, says he knows District 5 can be better served on a host of issues, from road funding, to paying attention to the city school board, to public transportation. He said the current debate over the role of the Huntsville Police Department illustrates the point.
“The district needs accountability, we need transparency and we need accessibility to our city council member,” he said. “Right now we’re finding out what not having access looks like, and that is what’s happening with the police department – the local community push for reforms, the lack of transparency in that process, the dissatisfaction with the explanations provided by the chief, are all breakdowns in communication.”
Culver said he supports protests, opposes rioting and wants residents to know he is listening to their concerns and calls for changes.
“So my role, first of all is to be the voice of the community,” he said. “Yes I’m a former police officer, I’m a city council member now. I do have a more in-depth understanding from both perspectives, because before I was a police officer, I was a citizen in Huntsville, before I was a council member, I was a citizen in Huntsville, so my perspective is unique.”
Meredith said Culver doesn’t respond to district residents. Culver says he held 13 town halls in 2019, but the pandemic affected that schedule in 2020. Culver acknowledges he’s missed some important emails from residents, but blamed the heavy volume of computer-generated emails he gets. Culver also said he now has full-time assistant now to assist on those issues.
Meredith says he will be available to district residents.
“My approach to public policy is one of collaboration,” Meredith said. “I will be downtown three days a week, anybody who wants to come in from the district and wants to tell me what they feel about an issue, they’re going to have that opportunity. They’re not going to send me an email and me ignore it, they’re not going to call me and me not return that call.”
Culver said the decision to seek another term is about unfinished projects. He said he’s proud of his support for the TVA super site that was opposed by some residents, because it’s now turned into the location for the Mazda Toyota plant.
“To see a lot of these things that I have initiated,” Culver said, “MidCity, things happening in Providence, the Toyota Mazda manufacturing plant, University Drive/72, the bridge across Research where people can walk to Bridge Street and other parts of the community, I want to see all those things through to fruition.”
Meredith said voter turnout for the general election showed voters are motivated. He said he learned from his first run and this time has a large team of volunteers who understand how to reach out in the community. Culver says Tuesday will be fun and he’s looking forward to hearing from voters.
Both candidates urged residents to come out and vote.
“I just want to encourage folks to get out there and have their voices heard,” Meredith said. “Don’t hold back, if you hold back, you might regret the fact that you didn’t vote. So go ahead and vote, have your voice heard.”
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday.